Learning as an Interdisciplinary Team

Today was the first time in which we interacted with the people of Botswana as a team of physical therapists, audiologists, and speech language pathologists. Our first site was at the Aerodrome school, which is a school for students with and without disabilities. We screened students with disabilities. As we entered the classroom the students and their families were lined up in chairs and smiling as we entered offering the customary “Dumela,” the Setswana word for hello. We were welcomed by songs and prayers. The songs were beautiful and moving with the first to be consisted of a prayer of forgiveness and the second one joyful in that with Christ all things are possible. We were spoken to by government dignitaries and representatives for the school. We felt the impact that our presence was having before we even started our screening. One of the most important things the speakers mentioned was not only the help we will offer the students and their families, but how the students will help us learn about the culture of Botswana.

We split into three teams with one PT in each team and an amalgamation of either two audiologists in one group and two SLPs in another. In this manner we began to learn how to work as an interdisciplinary team. The variety of impairments we witnessed addressed all three fields. Audiology was able to offer hearing screens and strategies to the parents to help the children with difficulty hearing. Speech was able to help those who were having difficulty communicating both verbal and non-verbal strategies to help the student communicate with the teachers or school. Physical therapy was able to offer exercises for students with difficulty with normal movement patterns and bracing options for students with joint deformities. All three disciplines were able to address impairments in their field. We were honored that the students at the Aerodrome school allowed us to learn from them.

The afternoon was scheduled to be filled with students coming to the Progressive Physiotherapy Clinic. Matilda, the owner of Progressive Physical Therapy, is our contact in Botswana who years ago graduated from Ohio University with a degree in physical therapy. According to Amo, Matilda’s daughter, the early 90’s is when Matilda graduated from Ohio University. Our plan was to see as many students as possible from the school for the deaf in Francistown. Our plan did not go according to plan. Only two students came to the clinic to be seen. The positive in only seeing two students at this clinic is it allowed time for interdisciplinary education between the three disciplines and was valuable to understanding the scope of practice for PT, SLP, and audiologists.

After the clinic we went to the local mall which was across the street from the clinic. The mall was fascinating and filled with people of Botswana. Approximately 50 shops were there including a “Pick n’ Pay” where we purchased groceries. On the 1-mile walk back to our hotel one of our students was proposed to. Indeed, we were a sight out of the ordinary. Imagine 15 people dressed in green, light skinned, and walking down the crowded streets of the second largest city in Botswana.

Overall, it was a fulfilling and edifying day. We concluded the day with a meeting recapping what we learned and sharing. Everyone had a turn to speak and share their perspective on the day. Botswana has many more educational opportunities and opportunities for personal growth.


Flight to South Africa

Bleary eyed and bleak faced the Botswana crew disembarked from their 15-hour flight. Arriving in Johannesburg, South Africa was a long and enduring flight. Along the flight our group met local nationals and interacted with some peace corps individuals and shared our story of the journey we were just beginning. We are ready for the next chapter of this journey.


For many this has already been a series of first experiences. One of our numbers has completed her first and second commercial flights. For most of us this is our first trip to the southern hemisphere. The Johannesburg Airport, or J-burg as the locals call it, has already had some unexpected welcomes and challenges. South African flight regulations are stricter than the US when it comes to flying with tools in carry-on luggage. Two of us had to separate from the group for 4 hours to check in the luggage with the tools requiring us to clear customs, check the bag and go back through security. Truly, we are already being taught that we can expect the unexpected.


Ultimately, there is a buzz and undercurrent of excitement amongst the obvious fatigue and curiousness of the unknown that awaits us. We are excited and ready to share anything we possibly can with the people of Botswana. We know we will learn and grow from this educational experience. We know we can share information and teach the people of Botswana. What we don’t think the people of Botswana realize is how much they will teach us by being who they are and allowing us to practice our skills and help them rehabilitate.

A week of false starts but strong finishes

I can say  without hesitation that the beginning of this  week  is one that I would not wish to repeat again in this lifetime.  It started off more than just an irritation, but the students were great and if they did panic they did not let us know.  The days at Princess Marina and Mariri Child Development center were fantastic, the students demonstrated IPP in the best way possible through discussion and exchange.  The Tea party fund raiser for the clinic provided the students an opportunity to yet again demonstrate their strong leadership and presentation skills but the best skills were their dance skills when the singer Shanti Lo performed.  Shanti Lo was very interested in the power presentation on sensory integration that the students presented as he is looking to partner more closely with the clinic to make special education for special needs children a priority in Botswana.  Today , after another false start, we  finished off the week with a cultural tour of Mmankgodi Village home of the Bushmen rock paintings, the David Livingston tree and the Bahurutshe Cultural Lodge. I had been told by our transportation company that we did not need an appointment, we just needed to show up, that however was not true.  The woman who coordinates the event graciously pulled together some of the other women and they were able to provide us with a great program.   I am always fascinated by the history of the Batswana people, today we met a Grandmother (elder) what told us that a few years ago, she and her fellow widows decided that they needed to teach the younger generation about the old ways of the Batswana people.  She really gave our driver and his wife “what for” about the way they live today.  After the tour we were treated to  a traditional meal of Pap, Sorghum,

Chicken, Pa Pa bread, Shredded beef, Greens and Gravy.  Overall a great week, just three more days in Gaborone

Stay Hydrated

The Marari tea went well and was a huge success. Our presentation on sensory issues was well received by parents and many said they found it helpful. We also got the meet the Afro Jazz sensation in Botswana, Shanti Lo, who performed some of his famous songs and was there as a new partner for the Marari Clinic and Ambrose Trust organization. I encourage you to google Shanti Lo and you can listen to some of his music directly on the search page. It was very enjoyable! After the tea was finished, there was lots of music and dancing with the parents and kids. All of us students were exhausted, but collected so many memories and pictures that we will hold close to us forever.

This morning we went to the cultural village tour, that you apparently need an appointment for. Well, needless to say we did not know we needed an appointment. It ended up working out well because we got to go and explore some of the historic rock paintings that are still around from 2000 years ago, and also to see the Livingston tree which used to serve as a hospital, school, and church. It was absolutely stunning. After we visited these two things we went back to the cultural village and were able to eat a traditional meal. It was very delicious! Everyone really enjoyed themselves and it was nice to have a day off to explore.

Although, Tyler and I have learned one HUGE lesson today. We need to stay hydrated. Everyone is shopping at Game City right now, and him and I are home because we got dehydrated and aren’t feeling well. Hopefully some rest will do the trick!


Mariri Clinic Experience

Yesterday was by far my favorite day. I loved being at the Mariri Speech and Hearing Clinic in Gaborone, Botswana to assess all of the special children who attend that school. It was an audiology experience like no other.
We started with the patients who already have amplification. First, we saw a girl with a cochlear implant who we did a listening assessment on using the Ling 6 sounds and a picture book to assess identification. Following this we had a bilateral hearing aid user that we tested using the same materials, he did perfect and was doing really well with his hearing aids. Our last amplification patient was a child with a osseointegrated device. It was cool to do a listening assessment on his osseointegrated amplification and see that he was at the sound awareness level. This was my first assessment with a person who was at the initial stages of auditory development. I wish that I lived here solely for the fact that I could continue to work through the stages of auditory development with this child and help him get entirely through the process. It was amazing to see how sound awareness can be assessed. After that audiology did 6 hours of hearing screenings that were non-stop. Needless to say, between the SLPs, AUDs, and PT we were all pretty exhausted and quite on the way home. Now we are off to give our presentation on Sensory Integration disorders to the parents and guests of the Marari Clinic tea.


Putting Knowledge in Action

Mariri Child Development Center is the only special needs preschool in Botswana.  It is privately owned and the parents pay a hefty tuition price, so the children come from a higher socioeconomic bracket.  Today only the speech students went and they quickly learned what the term “think on your feet” really means.  We had clients scheduled from 10 until 1 but the 10:00 did not show so the secretary brought in the child who was scheduled for 11, and that is pretty much how the day progressed back to back to back clients. from 3 to 5 we were providing therapy in 15 minute blocks, just enough time to do a quick assessment, interact with the child and write concrete suggestions. i think the students would agree that the highlight of the day was watching a little boy quickly grasp the concept of PEECS.  in 30 minutes he moved from choosing the picture from a field of four outside the book  to choosing a picture from a field of nine from inside the book. it was a great moment

Just Keep Breathing

Well, the epic journey that began on Saturday July 30, 2016 has finally ended with Rebecca, Kyle and I finally in Gaborone reunited with the other students.  Wait, why do I hear a Peaches and Herb song in my head ?  I am sure anyone reading this under the age of 40 will have no idea what I am talking about.  Peaches and Herb, the song “Reunited”, never mind.

To continue the saga, we arrived after a 14 hour 56 minute flight in Johannesburg around 6:30 pm.  I have to admit the flight was not half bad, the middle seat was empty so I was able to spread out a little.  I swear on my next trip I am going to save up enough to go at least Business Class.  I will admit that South African Airlines has better food and better food choices, we received a hot meal once we took off and then brunch around 10 am and then a hot snack right before we landed.  South African Airways had snacks in the back of plane as well as soda and water.  You had to ask for a bottle of water and no snacks of any kind to be found.  Although I did see that in business they were being served petite fours.

Once we landed in Joberg, we had to find the hotel for the night.  Those who know me know that I am a proud card carrying member of the “Can’t find my way out of a brown paper bag club”  so I went the way we usually go which was wrong, I stopped a gentlemen who had on an official uniform and the next saga began.  He told us that “he and only he” could take us to the hotel as we had to walk.  Now, I had looked up the website and it said that the hotel was right across the street from the International Terminal.  I am tired and cranky and all I think is that the website lied and this guy is looking for a tip from the bewildered Americans.  So I asked how far, “oh just across the way.  If you want me to get you through customs faster get in the wheelchair.”  It is late and I am tired and I do have MS so I got in the wheelchair and away we go, getting through customs was a breeze, Kyle and Rebecca right behind.  We go out the door and lo and behold there is the IHG hotel in all its glory, not even 100 yards.  He insisted upon walking us up to the reservation desk all the while telling me that I should not ask anyone else for directions and that since I was flying out of Joberg on South African Airways,   we needed to go to Terminal B Kiosk 87, now I had not told him that we were flying out using SAA,but he would not listen to my explanation.  So I just nodded my head and said” ok”, knowing I was going to do no such thing.  Gave him is tip and away he went.  I was praying that he would not be waiting in the lobby the next morning, insisting on taking us to Terminal A  when we needed Terminal B.

The one hour flight to Gaborone was uneventful but upon landing we found that we had no luggage, so the plans for going over to the hospital were dropped as we were not exactly presentable for a professional visit.  Our driver agreed to come back and take us to the airport, so around 1:00 we started calling the luggage desk, no answer.  Our driver comes and we decide that we will have to go get at least one set of professional clothes so off we go.  Rebecca calls Delta airlines on the way and finds that 4 of the bags are there.  So owe go to the airport to pick them up , when we ask about the 5th bag we are told that it will probably be on the 4:00 flight and that they would call us, well we did not fall for that so at 4:00, our driver took Kyle back out to the airport and returns triumphant. Glory Glory Glory. Crisis averted.

Maybe the title of this blog should be Tale of the Traveling Suitcases…  at any rate… the group is back together again and it sounds as if they got along fine without us.  On to day three tomorrow.






We're not in Athens anymore. Follow some Ohio University Physical Therapy Students and Speech Language Pathology Students as they experience life and the healthcare system in Botswana.